Dunn Neugebauer Column: A Runner's Prayer

Dear Lord, please don't let me get spiked in the ankle again. That REALLY hurt when that kid clipped me in Darlington. And please don't let me throw up and be thrown up upon. My mother is not a runner, dear Lord, so when I presented my singlet for her to wash, she really didn't understand how I got second-hand Doritos and chili from a simple Saturday 3.1-mile run. 

And please don't let me get thrown around after the gun goes off. I only weigh 84 pounds, sometimes those big kids don't respect that, particularly when they're chasing bling, adulation, and hearing their names called out at Monday's assemblies. Please deliver me from cramps, whether for 'girl reasons' or from race pains and please get me in and out of the bathrooms beforehand where I can quickly breathe your wonderful freely-given air.

Please help me beat my rival, particularly when she taunted me at the last race with a T-shirt that read, "Don't bother with the course map, just follow me!" I'm all for confidence and creativity Dear Lord, but I think that's taking it a bit too far. Please give me my own seat on the bus, despite it being a small, 14-passenger thing, somehow it seems to seal in every piece of sweat on every single singlet. (Please see the above "throw up" part for emphasis.)

Going backwards, please wake me up on time, and soothe my mind before I throw the alarm clock across the room when I see it's only 5:15 on a Saturday. And please forgive me both now, and forevermore, the cuss words I scream when asking myself why I got into this silly sport in the first place, and why I can't be normal and play the games that start at 4 p.m.

Speaking of, and in going forward, could you consider making me normal? Running until you're dizzy and almost passing out -- something doesn't quite sound right about all that. Please deliver us short-winded race starters, guns that don't fire blanks, kids that don't fall where we have to do it all over again, and I promise I'll be okay as long as there is something to drink at the finish line.

Please deliver me my pillow for the morning trip, as falling asleep tilted funny against those windows leaves me with a crick in my neck that lasts until Tuesday. Please let this be the Saturday that John and Billy have to carry the tent -- I had to do it the last two times -- or at least please fix the wheels on that cart-thing where I can just put it on that.

And please deliver me a bagel -- just a bagel. Pre-race eggs don't seem to stay down very well, coffee hurts when I spill it on my lap, so a bagel is easy to carry and it's never -- as of yet -- come back up, even when my coach is telling me to sprint the last 150 meters.

Please don't let my coach run beside me during the race and yell at me. It makes me cry and he gets REALLY mad when I yell back. Speaking, of don't me forget my shoes and leave them on that tarp again. The last time I did that, mom yelled. It made me cry.

Please pick me back up when I collapse in the finish chute. And extra prayers for those who work in those things -- the ones who pick us up with our sweat and our blood and our puke. And my second-hand Doritos and chili on my singlet.

And finally, please forgive my teacher who almost didn't let me out of class last Wednesday. He said this wasn't even a sport, even sneered when he said. I give thanks on this day, Oh Lord, for keeping me from punching him right square in the face. It is in these things and plenty more that I will keep asking, day after day, mile after mile, race after race. In Your name, I pray…